Uterine fibroids are noncancerous (benign) tumors that develop in the womb (uterus), a female reproductive organ. Uterine fibroids are common. As many as 1 in 5 women may have fibroids during their childbearing years (the time after starting menstruation for the first time and before menopause). Half of all women have fibroids by age 50.
Fibroids are rare in women under age 20 and are more common in African-Americans than Caucasians.
The cause of uterine fibroids is unknown. However, their growth has been linked to the hormone estrogen. As long as a woman with fibroids is menstruating, a fibroid will probably continue to grow, usually slowly.
Common symptoms of uterine fibroids are:
- Bleeding between periods
- Heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia), sometimes with the passage of blood clots
- Menstrual periods that may last longer than normal
- Need to urinate more often
- Pelvic cramping or pain with periods
- Sensation of fullness or pressure in lower abdomen
- Pain during intercourse
Treatment for the symptoms of fibroids may include:
- Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) to help control heavy periods
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs) that release the hormone progestin to help reduce heavy bleeding and pain
- Iron supplements to prevent or treat anemia due to heavy periods
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naprosyn for cramps or pain
- Short-term hormonal therapy injections to help shrink the fibroids
Surgery and procedures used to treat fibroids include:
- Hysteroscopic resection of fibroids: Women who have fibroids growing inside the uterine cavity may need this outpatient procedure to remove the fibroid tumors.
- Uterine artery embolization: This procedure stops the blood supply to the fibroid, causing it to die and shrink. Women who may want to become pregnant in the future should discuss this procedure with their health care provider.
- Myomectomy: This surgery removes the fibroids. It is often the chosen treatment for women who want to have children, because it usually can preserve fertility. More fibroids can develop after a myomectomy.
- Hysterectomy: This invasive surgery may be an option if medicines do not work and other surgeries and procedures are not an option.